Varadkar praises journalists’ reporting of alleged data breach at INM
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has commended journalists at Independent News & Media for “not allowing their independence to be compromised” amid controversy over an alleged data breach.
“Having independent news and media is a cornerstone of our democracy. It is, after all, the Fourth Estate,” said Mr Varadkar.
He said new laws to protect journalistic sources are to be considered by the Irish government, and the time has come to “dust down” reports on strengthening media independence and to consider fresh legislation.
“Journalists must be free to pursue stories that they want to pursue. Their sources should be protected and free from any unjust interference, external or internal,” Mr Varadkar told the Dail.
He was responding to Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald — who raised the Office of Director of Corporate Enforcement’s (ODCE) investigation into INM, which publishes this newspaper.
The ODCE is seeking to appoint High Court inspectors to investigate corporate governance issues at INM. Among the accusations is that email records, including some belonging to journalists, were taken from company headquarters and examined by third parties in 2014.
Mr Varadkar commended the journalists who have reported on the story in recent weeks “including journalists in Independent News & Media, who have not allowed their independence to be compromised”.
He added: “The reported data breaches represent a very significant threat to the freedom of our press but the way in which the media have responded to this threat to date should reassure us that our press will not be silenced.”
Mr Martin said there is a “real and deep concern” about the case before the High Court in Dublin because “an independent and free media is essential to the operation of a parliamentary democracy”.
In her contribution, Ms McDonald questioned whether the ODCE has enough resources to deal with such cases. She said: “This office should be properly resourced and empowered to ensure white-collar crime is not only prosecuted but deterred.”
Mr Varadkar said the ODCE “is well-resourced to tackle the increasingly complex breaches of company law”, with 36 staff and seven gardaí.